There is a contradiction in Baltimore County's insisting that it will continue to support the arts yet, at the same time, pulling the plug on its most influential advocate.
County Executive Roger Hayden announced last week that in order to save money, he will wipe out the salary of Lois Baldwin, the head of the county's Arts and Sciences and Commission. Also eliminated will be funding for a secretary. Total savings: $63,000. That is not much -- particularly in a $1 billion budget. While the every-penny-counts approach has been endemic to the Hayden administration's fiscal strategy, this is hardly one of the executive's better judgments.
Baldwin performed a valuable function -- recommending to the executive how grant money for the arts should be divvied up. The county administration is correct in pointing out that grant money is itself not affected by this decision. Yet Baldwin served not only as a monitor of government arts spending but as an expert advocate for the arts within government. Theater and dance groups, museums and choruses will still apply for grant money. But with Baldwin's office gone, they must go through the Office of Economic Development which knows relatively little about the arts. The entire process of applying for and receiving grant money could become highly politicized.